The death of conversation; long live social media


Okay, I just had the longest week of my life, and I’m poofed. Need to lie down but then I’m depressed. And when I’m depressed, I write.

Why am I depressed? Well two things actually. The first is a pet peeve, the other is the motherlode.

I just spent the whole of today in the midst of people; talking to them, collaborating on projects together and meeting some new colleagues. I had a swell time, honest, but it left me drained. My personality means I’m more of a, “moments of solitude punctuated with brief spells of interaction with others” kind of person. But today, the script was totally yanked from under me. I had no time whatsoever alone with my thoughts.

I landed on my feet though. And I was in a nice mood all through. But now I’m feeling very, very drained. That’s the peeve.

Two and this is where the real issue is; What ever happened to conversation? You know, the kind that happens between people face to face? Nowadays, people rarely have conversations. They have competitions. One liners and comeback competitions. It’s almost like everyone’s trying to outwit, outsmart and outshine the other.

Who’s the most cynical? Who’s the most sarcastic? Who’s read up more? Maybe because the internet is near ubiquitous, everyone is expected to know something about everything, hence we have people unwilling to admit, “I don’t know.”

It’s a performance and I’m sick of it.

I’ve been feeling like this for a while but when I began working remotely from home, I wasn’t as exposed to what I’ll call Performance Culture as much. So, it was kinda in the background of my mind. But today, being in the midst of so many people, and for so long, I was really dying to connect with someone, anyone. There was none. I couldn’t help feeling isolated.

It’s like the rush hour switch is flipped on perpetually in our heads. No one has time for genuine conversation anymore.

Okay, this is starting to become a rant which is the last thing it’s meant to be. Let’s try to wrap this up.

It’s telling that our already short attention spans are getting even shorter. Twitter, Facebook and (insert whatever social network) have aggravated the situation. There’s a lot of activity and messaging going on there, but that’s not really conversation. To be honest, what we do on social media, for the most part, is marketing.

We present the best part of ourselves, trying to cover up the blemishes or at least, direct attention away from our flaws. This may be good for brands, but for people? Actual human beings with souls? Come on. I’m finding it harder each day to find those who are willing to be genuine and upfront about themselves while including their weaknesses, their doubts, fears, failures, and “worst” of all, their ignorance.

No one, is willing to be ignorant anymore. But I think ignorance is where we all begin. Just reading up on a wiki about a subject or listening to a podcaster talk about it doesn’t change your ignorance. I believe the only true way to knowledge is via interaction.

[Seriously looking for a way to end this post…]

I remember when I was in the University, I had lots of friends in Computer Science. They had this ritual whereby they would sit after class and have roundtable discussions. All the questions they were too scared or confused to ask in the lecture hall, they would ask at that table. And then people would share their thoughts. What impressed on me the most, and hasn’t left me since, is that the ignorance of a lot of people was a huge contributor to the flow of the discussions. People would interject discussions to ask questions and it would expand the scope of the discussion. Everyone was eager to learn and also to teach, if required. A lot of those guys today are currently running startups in Lagos that have gained much traction. Both the then-ignorant and the knowledgable.

Sadly, that’s a practise that is going extinct.

My last thoughts about this tonight hovers around something the Editor in Chief of Time Magazine wrote. There’s no way to say it better than she did so I’m just going to quote her,

And so, many conversations are fast, furious, [and] in binary form—Israel or Palestine? Hillary or Bernie? Taylor or Nicki? When so many sound so certain about so much, there is little left to talk about, no interest, no appetite, just attitude.

True conversation, the analog kind, face to face, ideally around a table, over food and drink, is perhaps the least efficient form of communication. It requires the patience to listen and the courage to learn, to be surprised, to arrive at a conclusion you’d never have foreseen when you set out from your home harbors. And it is fueled by the kind of questions you wouldn’t normally think to ask.

Amen to that.

As for me, I’m going to sleep with the hope that tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that, there’ll still be people willing to have true conversations. And God will bring them my way.


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